It takes courage, to say nothing of a healthy dose of optimism, to launch a new V-8-powered mid-size SUV in an already-crowded market – and at a time when such vehicles languish on dealer lots nationwide. Nevertheless, Kia Motors America has introduced its all-new Borrego, a four-door SUV in the classic mold of the Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee and others.
The Borrego offers many of the same features available on other SUVs. It’s a classic body-on-frame vehicle with a seven-passenger capacity in a wagon-like configuration with a cargo area out back accessible via a single-piece liftgate.
Under the Hood
A 3.8-liter V-6 rated at 276 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque is standard, and a healthy 4.6-liter V-8 that produces 337 hp and 323 lb-ft of torque is optional. The V-6 is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, while a six-speed is standard with the V-8.
Coil springs and a multilink suspension handle the rear axle, and coil-spring independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering round up the undercarriage. The Borrego is standard in 2WD, but a full-time torque-on-demand transfer case is available in the 4WD model. All models use four-wheel disc brakes.
Lower cost is one of the Borrego’s selling points that Kia is quick to highlight. The base-model 2WD LX with the V-6 engine starts at $26,995, but the upgrade 2WD EX with the V-8 is priced starting at $31,745. By the time you layer on a variety of popular options including the torque-on-demand 4WD ($2,000), navigation system ($1,500), luxury package ($1,500), the premium package ($1,800) and 18-inch chrome wheels ($750), the EX price, for example, jumps up to about $39,295, which is closer to what we expect from competitive models.
According to the EPA estimates, the 2WD V-6 Borrego is rated as much as 17 city/21 highway mpg, and the V-8 equivalent comes in at 15 and 22 mpg, respectively. It’s not often you see the V-6 model rated at a lower highway figure but that’s how the EPA ran its numbers.
Cabin access is good, entry and exit are no problem for average-size adults and the seats are well contoured and padded for a reasonable comfort level. Leather seat trim is optionally available across the board. The shades of gray in the rig we drove made for a low-key interior and the dashboard and controls are logical and uncluttered.
Access to the third-row seating is a bit snug, as expected, but no worse than average for adults and much easier for younger occupants.
Some small details, like joints between panels that are unevenly spaced, reveal that Kia needs to do a bit more homework before the Borrego will be truly accepted as a luxury-class vehicle.
On the other hand, Kia is rightfully proud of its use of an optional Infinity sound system with Sirius radio. The Infinity setup includes a seven-channel 315-watt digital amplifier, 10 speakers including a subwoofer and a center-mounted instrument panel speaker. All told, the sound system is top-notch and we enjoyed using it. A six-speaker system with Sirius radio is standard, and buyers can opt for a GPS navigation system to simplify wandering on unfamiliar territory.
Borrego passengers enjoy the usual variety of power accessories as well as optional dual-zone automatic climate control on EX models and optional rear air conditioning. Bluetooth wireless technology is available as an accessory.
Safety features abound in the new Borrego and include a tire-pressure-monitoring system (TPMS), a backup warning monitor and airbags located just about everywhere – including side-curtain rollover bags and seat-deployed side airbags. The usual dizzying array of driving-related safety systems include ABS with brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), downhill brake control (DBC), hill assist control (HAC) and electronic stability control (ESC).
We had the opportunity to drive a Borrego that was hitched to a Keystone Passport Ultra Lite 250BH. The trailer weighed about 4,400
pounds, a decent size for the truck but not a serious stretch for its 7,500-pound towing capacity.
The V-8 is smooth and quiet, and the transmission shifts with authority. Having six speeds available meant we had enough gears to ensure the right torque delivery kept the load moving as desired.
After adjusting the brake control we left our staging area and trundled down a small two-lane road, then a state road and finally a stretch of freeway undulating through the Washington Cascades. The Borrego handled the Keystone just fine throughout the drive. We waggled the steering on the slower-speed highway and the trailer shifted laterally, but the truck held it firm when the steering was centered again.
Out on the freeway at each posted speed limit, we felt confident and secure behind the wheel. Passing commercial traffic caused some sway, per usual, but the Borrego tracked straight and true. Lane changes, some done rapidly to simulate a semi-emergency situation, were readily in control. Braking was consistently solid and dependable.
We took a circular freeway exit a bit aggressively and the Borrego still maintained good control. At no time did we feel the tail was wagging the dog.
In general, the Borrego should make a fine option for someone looking for a mid-size SUV with a tow rating high enough to handle many of today’s lighter-weight trailers. It still eats fuel at a rate consistent with others on the market, but when you need the passenger, cargo cubic volume or trailer-towing capacity, the fuel is the price you pay. Meanwhile, enjoy the smooth Borrego drive and that terrific sound system.
Kia Motors America Inc., (800) 333- 4542, www.kia.com.